Does the Quality of Devotees Really Reflect the Guru?


Date: 05-27-02

By: Robert Priddy




Date: 09-13-02

By: Barry Newton

I can relate easily with the recent posting at exbaba regarding devotees reflective of the guru. My experience in the SSO has been the witness of extraordinary arrogance and selfishness on the part of those at the highest levels who should be exemplars and models of good and kind behaviour. But sadly, it is not so.

One occasion I witnessed - (Sri) Indulal Shah strut to the head of an extremely long queue in the western canteen at Prashanti in a manner which the word 'pompous' barely describes adequately. In all of my 49 years on earth I am yet to see a distant approximation of this man's pompously self-important arrogance. The way he walked past and looked upon everyone with arrogant disdain is forever etched in my mind - a look I shall never forget, as if he was the only clean being amongst filthy revolting sub-humans.

It is said that you don't get a second chance at a first impression, and that first impressions are always correct. In that regard I would urge all Sai devotees to take a second chance and long review their first impressions of the Sai ashram's and organisations. The truth was there long before unfulfilled needs created the delusion.

Since leaving the Sai culture it is like a dark cloud has been lifted from me, and I can see clearly now! Very clearly.

Yours in Truth, Barry Newton (Thankfully) ex-Sai Org deputy chair NSW, Australia.

It is often said that the test of a guru is the quality of his devotees. They certainly do tend to reflect his teaching and example, and I might add, this also implies that they do not always act in acceptable ways. After long experience of the Sai movement, the ashrams and the Organisation (two decades), I was forced more and more to the conviction that SB devotees are seldom any better in actual behaviour than your average person, and the majority are frequently more selfish, ill-mannered and with fewer good qualities than those among whom I have grown up and later associated through my life.

I know a few Sai personages - both Indian and foreign - who are a generous to a fault, friendly and full of good qualities (but deluded too). And I knew many more low profile followers who I found to be good through and through. I started out blue-eyed and willing to accept everyone and see beyond their faults and shortcomings. But this attitude was gradually and relentlessly worn down to a normal, common sense view of them again. I know one favourite of SB, a VIP veranda person, who I know without any doubt to be dishonest in business (refused to pay up on his signed commitments to a Danish friend of mine), and others who are conniving and manipulative under cover of an adopted outward piety and verbal unction. The most prominent ones often demonstrate massive egocentrism… so much so that I have to wonder where and how they grew up to remain so. This is not only my opinion, many others have spoken to me about the egoism and dishonesty of those in question. Though I am not - like SB - in the business of counting the sins of others (it would also be a time-consuming task among Sai devotees), I have very broad and sound experience to support my view that SB followers are a very mixed bag. After deep consideration, I find the social environment SB has nurtured is not particularly praiseworthy and is neither civil nor particularly caring, let alone loving. There are exceptions to this, but they only tend to prove the rule. Even SB expresses this opinion again and again, and much more forcefully when he rants at his followers (especially in private group sessions).

The ashram is a place where the newcomer is largely left by other devotees to fend for him or herself. Seldom have I seen residents go out of their way to help new arrivals, and invalids are often treated with less than compassion or understanding about their difficulties. Many residents behave and speak as if they ‘have arrived’, and shall have all privileges over others. Many use their long familiarity with the system there to take advantage wherever they can, and even many of the so-called ‘selfless servers’ of the Seva Dal (esp. the women) manipulate things - or even push and shove quite relentlessly - to their own ends. It is know how vehemently SB regularly harangues the Seva Dal in private sessions about their laxity and lack of good qualities, and also ridiculing them for storming forth like wild horses to obtain a front seat etc. However, improvements are hard to see (though there do seem to be more decent and helpful people among then than 20 years ago) and one naturally wonders why SB - as an all-powerful avatar - cannot at least attract more persons of a kinder and civil nature. Their behaviour certainly reflects on him, their great and supposedly infallible teacher!

Since back problems caused me to have to sit on a chair (and later on the new hard stone uncomfortable ‘torture-benches’), I came to meet many invalids of all kinds. They are certainly not given any special attention by SB, and though they were once allowed to sit in places where he fairly often went at darshan, this in no longer the case at all. All invalids at Prashanthi Nilayam are at the very back of the mantap and SB seldom gets within speaking distance of them, and particularly seldom on the ladies’ side. At Brindavan, the female invalid section is visited much more often, while the men are again relegated to the very rear of the mantap. To obtain a place on the invalid chairs, one is forced to stand in a queue, often for over one hour, before one can sit down. The severity of an invalid’s condition makes no difference whatever. This is how SB enacts his ‘perfect example’ of compassion for the suffering in actual practice!

Obvious invalids are, however, allowed to go to the front of food queues. So are SB’s so-called ‘special guests’ or VIPs, who visibly take full advantage of their privilege, however long the queue may be or however long it has been standing.